Prof. Vajira H. W. Dissanayake, Professor, Department of Anatomy and the Human Genetics Unit, was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences of Sri Lanka on 5 April 2013, and inducted on 16 August 2013 by the President of the Academy Dr. Kingsley De Alwis at the Annual Induction Ceremony held in Colombo.
Since joining the University on 1998 as a probationary lecturer, Professor Dissanayake has gone on to perform groundbreaking research in Human Genetics in Sri Lanka. He has been the recipient of the University of Colombo Research Award in 2008; the Sri Lanka Medical Association Oration in 2008; the Third World Academy of Science and National Science Foundation, Sri Lanka – Young Scientist Award for Scientific Excellence in 2008; The Outstanding Young Person (TOYP) award for Medical Research, awarded by the Junior Chamber International, in 2008; and the Asia Oceania Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Young Scientist Award in 2011 – the first South Asian to receive the award and the E V Peiris Oration of the Ceylon College of Physicians in 2013.
His research group in the University of Colombo has several main focuses – genetics of rare disorders; genetics of reproductive disorders; genetics of neurological disorders; genetics of cancer; and genetics and stem cell biology of haematological conditions. He was the principal investigator in the team that sequenced the first Sri Lankan Human Genome. He was instrumental in setting up MSc courses in Biomedical Informatics, Clinical Genetics, Genetic Diagnostics, and Regenerative Medicine in the University of Colombo which has produced over 85 MSc graduates, and a PhD programme that has produced 4 graduates with 6 more in training. One of the MSc graduates was the first Nepalese to be trained in Clinical Genetics and she has now returned back to Nepal and established the first Medical Genetics Unit in that Country at the National Academy of Medical Sciences in Kathmandu, the equivalent of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine in Sri Lanka. The work of his team has resulted in over 40 publications in international peer reviewed journals and 150 conference papers of which 44 have been in international conferences.